An overview of saki-ori, or 20th-century obi waist sashes from rural Japan, are described in Riches From Rags: saki-ori & other recycling traditions in Japanese rural clothing, an exhibition catalogue published by the San Francisco Craft & Folk Art Museum.

The catalogue features superlative examples of the tradition and the garments are of museum quality.

I thought I’d take a closer look at other examples, somewhat lower in quality but which¬† nevertheless display the general features of the saki-ori.

The first one is 120″/3m long and 10″25.5cm wide. The weft (a sett of 17 warps per inch) is a thin black sewing cotton and the wefts are 0.5″/1cm-wide lengths of material (reed around 12 per inch), presumably from recycled kimono. Both ends of the obi feature 0.5cm or 3/16″ weaving done in silver metallic thread.

The design is a strict sequence of strips, 3 or 4 or 5cm or approx 1-1.5″ wide, in black, red and yellow. The black is flecked throughout with silver metallic thread, so the original kimono must have been an-all silver-on-black pattern. The red is a vermilion-orange with equal amounts of white, with occasional warps of vermilion and bright yellow-gold and areas of silver metallic, so the original kimono must have been white with areas of yellow embroidery and silver metallic embroidery. The use of metallic thread leads me to think they were recycled from silk kimono, but I reckon the yellow comes from a yellow monochrome kimono (with very small amounts of gold metallic thread) made from wool, or something similar highly-textured.

The only other design element is the addition of long horizontal lines of gold – warps (roughly 4″ long) which have been loosely added while weaving the black.

Each colour seems to have been woven separately, with separate shuttles for each colour, since there is no linking of colours at the edges. Care has been taken to bunch up the black warps at each edge to strengthen the finished product.

The plain weave, done on weaving loom a simple 2-shaft hand loom, using recycled kimono cut or torn into thin strips, can be easily replicated on a 2- or 4-shaft loom or rigid heddle loom.

References

Yoshida, Shin-Ichiro & Dai Williams. Riches from Rags: saki-ori & other recycling traditions in Japanese rural clothing. San Francisco, San Francisco Craft & Folk Art Museum, 1994.

Weave: handmade style. Designs by Wendy Cartwright, Helen Frostell, Mary Hawkins and Lynne Peebles. Millers Point, NSW, Australia, Murdoch Books, 2007.

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